Saturday, 18 April 2020 08:07



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The first MSC Requiem in this covid-19 era. It was filmed and the ceremony is available on YouTube.

With thanks for Malcolm Fyfe for texts and Peter Hendriks for the photos.

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Dear Friends and all of you who are prayerfully here in spirit but wishing you were actually present with us this morning: I mention in particular Brother Ted Merritt’s sister Margaret and husband Des, their family members and other relatives down in Brisbane, as well as many friends watching from a range of places across Australia.

We welcome you to St Paul’s Church, Nightcliff.

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My name is Father Malcolm Fyfe and celebrating Brother Ted’s Requiem Mass with me are two other Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, parish Priest Father Peter Hendriks and his assistant Father Barthalomai. I want to acknowledge and thank our Diocese of Darwin Bishop, Charles Gauci, for presiding at this liturgy and Emeritus Bishop Eugene Hurley for additionally gracing this occasion by his presence.

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A very limited but representative group of 5 are with us as we celebrate this Mass: Sister Mary Stevens, a long standing friend and co-worker with Brother Ted, representing also the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Damian Legg, from the St Vincent de Paul Nightcliff Conference, two of Brother Ted’s close friends, Joan Halvorson and Peter Liddle and lastly Michael Thekkayil, with whose family Brother Ted had become very close, having a special and affectionate bond with Michael and Christina’s two charming children. There are many others who might well have been part of this select group, such as Tony Sully and Marist Brother Daniel Hollamby, to name just two very familiar faces at the MSC Centre, The Ranch, where Brother Ted lived.     They were both part of the roster keeping watch during his final nights and days. A number of people, including all of those actually present, offered NOT to come because of the restricted number able to be present.

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Had other people been free today to attend in person, I doubt if we would have been gathering here at St Paul’s. We would have needed the Cathedral to accommodate all those who would have wanted to be present.     

You are with us in spirit as we continue with this Eucharistic celebration.

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Funeral Mass Homily

“In him, who rose from the dead,

Our hope of resurrection dawned.

The sadness of death gives way

To the bright promise of immortality.

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.

When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death

We gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.”

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My dear friends, as we link up together as best we can this morning to commend to our loving God the soul of a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, Brother Edward Patrick Merritt and to bless and honour his mortal remains, the words I have just quoted, from one of the Requiem Mass Prefaces, sum up for us our essential Christian belief in what happens to us when our life on this earth comes to an end. This belief is reinforced by St Paul’s statement in his letter to the Romans (Chapter 8): “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead has made his home in you, then he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies, through his spirit living in you.”

In other words, the victory of Jesus over death and sin that we have but a few days ago celebrated, is the model and pattern of our own destiny. We too, are to pass through death to life in Christ Jesus and see God face to face for all eternity. And the sorrow and sense of loss that we naturally experience at the death of someone we have admired and loved, give way to a celebration of his personal gifts and of all that he achieved throughout a long and dedicated life.

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And so, though this morning, family, confreres and friends are mourning Brother Ted’s departure from this life, we can be more intent on thanking God for all the gifts he endowed Brother Ted with and in recalling how he used these gifts for the good of others. 

As we celebrate this Requiem Mass to commend his soul to God, I will limit myself to recalling just a few of the salient features from the life story of this quite unique Religious Brother. 

Edward Patrick Merritt was born in 1928 at Corinda, a suburb of Brisbane. Even as a Secondary School student, young Ted felt a call to a religious vocation but it was only when he was 25 years of age that he took ‘a leap in the dark’, as he put it, and travelled down to Douglas Park, south of Sydney, to join the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart as a Brother. Up till that point he had been working in the motor industry, a job that would stand him in good stead in his subsequent missionary labours.

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Brother Ted made his first commitment as a religious brother mid-1954. Subsequently he worked as a gardener at Douglas Park for two years, in the office of the MSC publication “The Annals” for two years and in our boarding Colleges for a similar period. Again, this range of tasks, together with the skills he had earlier acquired in the workforce, prepared him for his life on mission stations in the Northern Territory.

Missionary life in the 60’s and 70’s was tough and at times, harsh in the extreme. Our Northern Territory missionaries in those years, were expected to be self-reliant men of grit and perseverance, capable of enduring isolation and an exacting lifestyle, with expertise in sharing the faith, along with the practical skills needed to cope with almost any contingency.

It was on June 30, 1966, that Brother Ted arrived in the Northern Territory to begin more than half a century of dedicated commitment to the life and ministry of the Diocese of Darwin in a special engagement with the Indigenous and the marginalised.

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From 1960 onwards, Brother Ted lived and worked for significant periods on all of our NT Mission stations: at Bathurst Island, at Wadeye, at Woodycupaldiya where he lived for a number of years in a demountable, at Daly River and at Santa Teresa, 80 km south east of Alice Springs - at times the resident mechanic, at times the accountant or the town clerk, and then at the age of 60 he learnt how to fly a plane and acquired his pilot’s licence. It is impossible in this short homily to recall in any detail the day-to-day challenges faced-up to, the dramas that occurred, the simple joys of life experienced, the many relationships forged.

In 2001 Brother Ted withdrew to Darwin, living at the MSC Centre, commonly known as “The Ranch”. It was not to be a retirement but a new lease of life, dedicated to the St Vincent de Paul Society, at the beck and call of innumerable people on the margins of society, with their many and various needs and their at times importunate requests for immediate help. Brother Ted matched these activities with repairs and maintenance tasks at The Ranch, with an energy level that people twenty years younger than him could well have been envious of.

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For the last 15 years I lived at the MSC Centre in Nightcliff with Brother Ted and witnessed at first hand his manner of life and his unswerving loyalty to his religious vocation lived out with gospel simplicity.

I used to think that Brother Ted would live to be 100 years of age. In fact, several times I warned him he should have something prepared to say at MY funeral Mass. Admittedly a risky commission to give to someone who had lived in the same community with me for so long! So, what happened over the space of two weeks was totally unexpected. That Saturday morning when he started to feel unwell, with the pain increasing each hour… Brother Ted trying to downplay it, but within hours, the ambulance was called and the first aid people did all they could to ease the pain before he was taken to the Emergency Department. Next morning, he underwent a quite massive operation and thereafter spent most of his remaining days in the ICU. I want to pay tribute here to the care that he received from the doctors and nurses at the Royal Darwin Hospital. From time to time we thought Brother Ted would somehow manage to overcome the forces that were pulling him down, but it was not to be.

A few days before a possible transfer to the Darwin Hospice, a Palliative Care nurse was plying him about a tedious range of questions to be filled in on the Hospice Forms. Surprisingly one of the questions was regarding what had been the focus of his life. Brother Ted replied unhesitatingly “Eternal Salvation and the Service of the Poor”. What a privileged moment to be present at that interview!

A few hours after he was transferred to the Hospice on Holy Thursday, he simply stopped breathing. Two of his very close friends were at his side, Peter Liddle and Joan Halvorson who are both here this morning.

I want to extend my personal condolences, the condolences of the Darwin diocese and those of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to Brother Ted’s younger sister Margaret and her husband Des, to their children and to all his other relatives, most of them down in Brisbane. They have been in frequent touch with us throughout these last couple of weeks. Needless to say, the poignancy of these recent events has only been heightened by the distancing restrictions we currently have to work under. I also want to extend our condolences to Brother Ted’s many friends and clients, many of whom will now be wondering who to turn to with their needs.                                                                                

I also want to mention my fellow MSC priests and brothers, especially those ministering in the Darwin diocese. Our NT MSC Superior, Father Leo Wearden at Wadeye, Father Peter at Daly River, Fathers Pat Mara and Danh Doan on the Tiwi Islands and of course my concelebrants here at the altar. All of these men will miss Brother Ted’s fellowship and his ever ready willingness to assist them in any way needed.

In particular, I want to mention Brother Herman Kooyman, who is in lockdown at the Pearl Aged Care Facility. He would love to be here this morning to give witness to how much and how often Brother Ted did everything he could to make life a little more tolerable for him. Brother Herman will miss Brother Ted very dearly indeed.  

So thank you, Brother Ted, for your enormous contribution to the life and mission of the Church in the Northern Territory, with special emphasis on helping the Indigenous and the marginalized.                                            

There is an ancient and well-known prayer called the Anima Christi, a prayer addressed to Christ in the Eucharist and generally recited after receiving Holy Communion. It is a beautiful prayer that Brother Ted was familiar with. It begins with the words:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me;  Body of Christ, save me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.

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Then looking ahead to the fragility and mortality of the life of each one of us, it continues

O good Jesus, hear me...
In the hour of my death call me;  and bid me come unto You
That with your Saints I may praise You;  Forever and ever, Amen.

“In the hour of my death call me and bid me come unto You.”

In the hour of Brother Ted’s death, we can be sure it was Jesus who called him and bade him to come to Him, so that with all the Saints he could be with Him and praise Him forever. 

As we continue now with the celebration of the Mass, we can be sure that Brother Ted, who as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart was so faithful to his religious commitment and to the teachings of Jesus, so devoted to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and always ready to help the neediest of God’s people, is already enjoying everlasting life, peace and light in the Kingdom of God.

                                                                            Malcolm Fyfe msc


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